plants DB - indigenious

Pacific Edge Permaculture + Media pacedge at
Sun Dec 30 17:43:05 EST 2001

I agree, Marcus, that the plant should not be documented in a database if
the woman in question does not wish that to happen... I think her request
should be respected.

My point in discussing the issue of private/ cultural versus public/ open
access knowledge was simply to raise the issues because I believe they
should form a part of any discussion around healing and indigenous

I am also aware that many  people supportive of indigenous rights might find
such a discussion confronting and uncomfortable because it brings up talk
about indigenous motives. Despite the discomfort, I believe that open
discussion of such things treats indigenous people more fairly  - it does
not place them on some pedestal - it treats them the way they have said that
they would like to be treated  - the same as everyone else.

> Her point in sharing this knowledge with me was to avoid the plant's value
> from being corporatised
I am aware that this sentiment is share by many indigenous communities
around the world. The sorry record of some ethnobotanists, anthropologists
and the pharmaceutical companies that employ them makes the fear of
exploitation of traditional knowledge real, although I believe there are
international agreements covering such circumstances - maybe someone more
knowledgable could comment on these.

> she said that because it grows in tubs or in the bush, it should be grown and
> used - not made into a pill for profit.

If she is proposing that it be used by non-Aboriginies, then this would
imply that some sharing of knowledge of the plant in question take place,
even on a person-by-person basis.

Information, once public, is hard to contain and there would be a risk that
it could come into the hands of people who might be in a  position to
commercialise it, though I admit the risk is small. The impetus for
commercialisation is inherent in commercial culture... the plant, or
extracts or compounds synthesised from it - if it works as claimed, if it
could pass public safety tests and if it was more effective than existing
pharmaceuticals -  would represent a market opportunity.

> I don't share the view that everything that can be known about plants is
> already in a book somewhere.

I agree, and I suspect that the knowledge already documented is in reality
only a small segment of what could be learned.

My point is that unless knowledge is shared (and those willing to share it
justly compensated) then it is denied to a great many people who would
benefit from it. At essence, this can become a moral question, not just one
of indigenous (or, in other circumstances, corporate) rights.

Thanks for the discussion.

...Russ Grayson

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